NOTE: I'm super excited to announce that I was picked the winner of the Sassool Grocery Challenge! Read the official announcement here. A big “Thank you!” to Mounir Saleh and the Sassool team for choosing my dish to be featured in both Sassool locations for the month of January!
UPDATE: My dish was so popular Sassool has decided to keep it on the menu!
Back in November I was invited to Sassool Mediterranean Cafe in Cary, North Carolina to visit their new grocery and retail section, and pick out a few items using a complimentary $25 gift card. Then using at least three items from the Sassool market, develop a delicious recipe to be entered in the Sassool Grocery Challenge, where I will be competing against eight other Triangle-area bloggers. Mounir Saleh (the owner of Sassool) will create and taste each dish and select his favorite. The winner's dish will be featured for the month of January at both Sassool locations (they also have a Raleigh location), listing the winning blogger's name!
I'd never been to Sassool before, and was curious what I might find. I'm not really familiar with Lebanese food so I was excited to try something new.
When I walked into the lovely cafe, they were very, very busy, always a good sign for a restaurant. The tables inside were all nearly full with customers happily eating their lunches. It smelled heavenly and my stomach growled, reminding me I hadn't eaten yet that day.
As I looked around at the cold salads and sides in display cases at the order counter, I was very impressed with the quality, freshness, and variety of foods to choose from. Check out Sassool's menu here!
My nose caught a whiff of the savory flatbread pies and pita bread baking in Sassool's gas-fired dome oven.
I perused the shelves in the market area while I waited for the counter to slow down so I could speak with Simone Saleh, the General Manager of the Cary location. The market carries yogurt and cheeses, frozen foods, olive oil, tahini, beans, pasta, coffee, tea, cookies and candies. Dried fruits, assorted nuts and seeds, and spices are received in bulk and packaged and sold by the pound. A frozen foods section is nearly complete, as well.
Simone gave me a little background on Sassool and explained that their main focus was providing great service and delicious, high quality, fresh food with balanced flavors. She explained “If we wouldn't serve the food to our family, we won't serve it to our customers.” I asked her a few questions about the market and then she went back to helping at the counter so I could get shopping.
I was delighted with the products offered in the market and actually picked up quite a few things while I was there.
Feeling adventurous, most of the items I put in my shopping basket were things I had NEVER cooked with, or even really knew what they were (I had to google a few), let alone tasted. I ended up purchasing several different items so I would have a good variety to choose from. Because I never know what I will be hungry for when I decide to start cooking.
When I was checking out with all of my grocery items I asked the cashier what that amazing smell was coming from the oven and she said “It's the pita!”
She asked if I would like some–the pita bread is complimentary with your purchase–so of course I gave an enthusiastic “Yes!”
I brought home four puffy, soft, and delicious pitas. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was some of the best pita bread I have ever tasted. (I was lucky to even get a bite as my girls discovered it while I was putting away my purchases and devoured every piece! My 13 yo felt bad and gave me half of her pita bread.)
After researching a few of the ingredients I decided that I wanted to make something using the pomegranate molasses. I had once watched an episode of Food Network Star or some show similar where one of the contestants created a pomegranate molasses and it sounded really tasty. (Pomegranates are my favorite fruit!)
I looked up a some recipes to see how pomegranate molasses was used and found a recipe for Pomegranate Chicken. It sounded delicious, aside from the walnuts (I'm not a fan–I figured I could substitute with cashews) so I pulled out the ingredients to make the recipe. Then decided I wanted to try to make something a little different. Truth be told, I was hungry and wanted something quick and easy.
So I chopped up some green, red, and yellow peppers, halved some grape tomatoes, and cubed the Halloumi cheese and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
We served the pomegranate chicken with pearled couscous spiced with the Zergut Peppetizer sauce, stuffed into a slightly toasted, whole wheat pita, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. I also made a warm lemon garlic chickpea salad as a side dish.
I thought my pomegranate chicken was delicious, but the real test would be if my kids liked it. Especially my 10 yo–she is my picky eater. She picked out the peppers and tomatoes, but LOVED the chicken with the sauce. She even ate the chickpeas. That was a real win.
This dish cooked up quickly and was very tasty. If you aren't a fan of peppers or tomatoes you can easily substitute for your favorite veggies. You can increase or decrease the spice factor easily by using more or less of the Berbere seasoning. You can also substitute the chicken for chickpeas if you prefer a vegetarian dish, and omit the cheese if you are doing Whole 30 like my friend Andrea.
The Halloumi cheese absorbed the flavors of the sauce quite nicely. But the surprise star of the dish was the addition of the fresh pomegranate seeds. They helped tone down the spiciness a little and gave a refreshing crunch to the dish.
- 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 each, red, green, yellow pepper, cut into 1" cubes
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
- 1 T Penzeys Berbere Seasoning Blend (you might want to start smaller and add more as needed)
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 package Halloumi cheese, cut into 1" cubes
- 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 T lemon juice, to taste
- 1 pomegranate, seeded, for garnish
- Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and saute the peppers for a minute or two.
- Place the cubed chicken in the pan. Stir to mix.
- Add Berbere seasoning and mix thoroughly.
- Cook the chicken for a minute or two then add the pomegranate molasses.
- After another couple of minutes mix in the Halloumi cheese and cook until hot.
- Add the grape tomatoes and cook until just warm.
- Squeeze the lemon juice over the dish, and remove from the heat.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve in a pita with spiced couscous.
Berbere Seasoning Blend contains: cayenne red pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon and coriander
1 box pearled couscous
1/2 jar Zergut Peppetizer
Cook couscous as instructions recommend on the box, but add 1/2 jar of the peppetizer to the water while it's cooking.
I followed the instructions on the box but it took twice as long for the couscous to cook to my preferred doneness.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 391Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 526mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 38g
I hope you are feeling a little adventurous and would like to try my take on Pomegranate Chicken. If you do, let me know your thoughts! With some luck, it will be featured at Sassool Mediterranean Cafe in Cary and Raleigh throughout the month of January.